January 21, 2018

What if they were doing their best?

Three people in a meetingWhat would your response be then?

We often feel other people have let us down in some way, or maybe they’ve let others down, or even themselves. We feel they could have done better.

Maybe they could.

Or maybe, actually, they couldn’t…

Maybe, in fact, they were doing the best they could at the time. Or at least, we’ll make more progress if we assume they were doing their best despite how it might seem.

The thing is…

We really don’t know what else is going on in people’s lives. We don’t know what else they’re having to take into consideration.

The NLP discipline has this as an expectation—in fact, it’s stronger than that—a requirement that practitioners act as if “people make the best decisions available to them at the time”.

Over the years, partly through my own mistakes of course, I’ve learned just how much mileage there is in this principle—just how different things are when it’s recognized.

We’ll get a better outcome if we cut other people (and ourselves) a little slack and accept they were doing their best. Sure, we might well seek to shape things for the future, but that’s different. Also, we might need to decide whether “their best” is acceptable relative to commitments that have been made e.g. to an employer. Again, that’s different.

People truly are doing the best they can at the time. It’s a characteristic of living systems. Putting it another way, given everything they had to consider including their own and others’ interests, they didn’t know how to do any better, because if they did, they would have done it. They need something they don’t yet have. Perhaps we can help them learn whatever it is they need to learn for the future.

Try a little forgiveness in the present. There’s more chance of influencing the future than the past, and more still if we accept people are doing their best at the time. And that goes for you too. When we apply the principle to ourselves, more often than not the world around us gains when we stop beating ourselves up about past mistakes.

I’ve decided to make available the notes (6 pages) from a talk on leadership I gave recently. These include specific insights into how to get organisations to learn and change and increase their performance. You can get a copy here…


The mistake most of us make about NLP

Man thinkingWe think NLP is something out there, when actually it’s something in here.

OK, the name is unfortunate. It stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. What sort of mouthful is that? It simply refers to the way we form habits by what we repeatedly do and say, and how we are. That’s it. At bottom, it’s as simple as that.

The interesting bit comes when we understand the structure of this habit-forming behavior and intervene in some way to change it, to overcome an issue or learn something new. That’s where the power lies.

Here’s the thing…

This programming process is going on inside us all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not. We’re unconsciously setting up patterns of behavior day in, day out, sometimes changing old ones (though usually we leave them alone until we realize they’re not helping us any more), and sometimes making new ones. NLP is just a handy set of principles for working with this, a process already going on inside us.

So if NLP didn’t exist as a subject of study, we’d end up discovering it again and calling it something else. The learning process is there anyway, whether we pay attention to it or not.

Sure, a whole industry has built up around training courses, qualifications, accreditations, techniques, jargon and so forth to learn all the milarkey. And that can undoubtedly be off-putting.

But know this…

You’re programming yourself every day whether you know it or not.

You can be aware of that or be unaware—up to you.

I chose the “be aware” choice and I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t turn the lights off again.

And if more of us opted to be mindful of our inner programming it would serve the world better. Among other things we’d relate well to other people.

Some of the essentials to do that—without signing up for the industry—are available here.

North Korean leadership – irrational or just not understood?

North Korean leadership – irrational or just not understood? And a suggested takeaway (no, not a Korean carry out (!) – an idea to use).

North Korea’s leadership is frequently referred to as “irrational”, but maybe it only seems irrational because we don’t understand its way of looking at the world – a very different viewpoint and values. Would the Chinese call the North Korean leadership irrational? Probably not. Being that bit closer, they may see how North Korea’s actions make sense in Kim Jong Il’s “map of the world”, frustrating though they may be for the Chinese, and dangerous for everyone.

At a slightly less dramatic level – only slightly, mind – somebody recently called “irrational” another party in a dispute. Same applies. Unless a person is mentally ill (perhaps Kim Jong Il is), there’s really no such thing as “irrational”. If somebody’s decisions don’t seem to make sense, it just means we don’t understand their perspective, and instead are trying to evaluate using our map.

Here’s the takeaway I suggest…

If you think you’re dealing with irrationality, accept instead you don’t understand the other’s perspective, and look for the explanation – it’ll be there. You don’t have to agree with it, just accept their right to have their own perspective. Then you’ll stand more chance of figuring out what to do to solve the problem.

And the underlying principle…

“The map is not the territory” – so said Alfred Korzybski in 1931, with echoes by NLPers since. Our model of the world is a pale shadow of the world itself. Mine is different from yours and neither are the same as the world itself. You have as much right to your model as I have to mine, and we both know much and yet also very little.